Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Indians view their automotive future

An interesting report on the future of the automobile in India comes from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Produced in cooperation with IBM's Institute for Business Value.

Image from The Hindu newspaper

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

$51.66/Mile to Operate Zero Emission Busses

A few years ago three transit agencies in California set out to evaluate hydrogen fuel cell busses. The results are in for Valley Transit Authority's trial and the fuel cell busses are surprisingly expensive. They've been costing the VTA $51.66 per mile to fuel, maintain and operate as opposed to $1.61 per mile for conventional diesel busses. ZEBs typically needed servicing after 1,100 miles, while diesel buses went about 6,000 miles between servicings. There's also a difference in purchase price: $2.5 million for the Zero Emission Busses versus $400,000 for diesel.

The California phase of the study is sponsored in part by the Department of Energy, and includes AC Transit, The VTA, and Coachella Valley's SunLine Transit Agency.

Image courtesy VTA

Monday, February 25, 2008

Volkswagen Sponsors New Research Center

Volkswagen has given $5.75 million to Stanford for the creation of a new research center to be run by Sebastian Thrun, director of the university's Aritficial Intelligence Lab and winner of the 2005 DARPA Challenge. The new center, to be named the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, will focus on improving automotive safety through robotics. In a speach Thursday night Thrun outlined the his plans for the new center, described here by Kristina Peterson in today's Mercury News.

Images courtesy of Stanford Univ.

Friday, February 22, 2008

They will know all about you

The British government is preparing new legislation that would compel all travelers entering and traveling within the UK to provide up to 19 pieces of personal information. Including such items as cellphone and credit card numbers, the information will be held for thirteen years. Read all about it in today's Guardian.

It's all in the name of security. Britain already supplies such detailed information to the US government on its citizens who travel to the States. And to think that once upon a time all you needed to show on the train was a valid ticket.

(Photograph: Guardian)

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Motor Car Dumpy Book

Images courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg yesterday reseased an e-book version of T.W.H. Crosland's classic work of transportation related children's literature, The Motor Car Dumpy Book. First published in 1904, Crosland's 95 page book is a humorous look at the growing fad of automobile ownership. In 1903 there were only 8 motor vehicles registered in Great Britain (according to the Dept. of Environment, Transport and the Regions' Vehicle licensing statistics, 1997) and early motor cars were often the subject of ridicule and satire.

Project Gutenberg, now a wiki, was started in 1971 by Michael S. Hart in an effort to create, gather and distribute books in electronic form. Project Gutenberg is joined in recent years by such e-book distribution efforts as Google Books, Microsoft's Live Search Books and the Open Content Alliance.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sorry Bicyclists- No San Rafael Bridge Trips Anytime Soon

photo courtesy of wikicommons

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Caltrans' recent rejection of a proposal by Bay Area bicyclists to open the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to bike traffic. The ongoing tension between bicyclists and Caltrans has lasted for 30 years with the current proposal projected to cost US$55 million.
Caltrans officials said Wednesday that they will reject a consultant's recommendation that a movable barrier be installed on the upper deck of the bridge to permit bicycle and pedestrian access 21 hours a day on weekdays and all day on weekends. Caltrans views such an arrangement as unsafe.
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition was instrumental in getting the proposal to this point and worked with consultants for the rejected proposal. Caltrans has contended that the project isn't feasible given safety concerns.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

London's New Congestion Pricing - A breath of fresh air?

Photo courtesy of Team Crandall.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone first proposed a higher congestion surcharge based on a vehicle's CO2 emissions in 2006. Today the formal proposal was announced by Transport for London. Some of the key points include no fees for vehicles that emit less than 120g/km of CO2 and an extra £25 charge for vehicles that pollute more than 225g/km of CO2 or have engines over specified sizes. Smart cars are in! SUVs are out.

The BBC reports that the National Alliance Against Tolls responded, "This move is not based on logic but on the whipping up of prejudices against those who use these particular vehicles." The Tory candidate for London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said, "In effect, the mayor has just given the green light for richer people to buy smaller cars and enter the zone for free while families who struggle with one big car are left feeling the pinch."

Environmental groups applaud the action, naturally.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Subway Maps Compared

The good folks at CTA Tattler bring our attention to a fascinating comparison of subway maps compiled by They present a collection of 35 subway maps from around the world shown side-by-side in the same scale. And serves up a scale comparison of North American subways.

If you can't get enough about maps in general, there's good map blog at The Map Room.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Parking Space a Pawn in Political Debate

The city of Berkeley is using a parking space to voice their political opinions. An article by Judith Scherr in the Berkeley Daily Planet reports on the descision by the Berkeley City Councl to grant free use of a parking space for four hours a week to protesters of the Berkeley office of the U.S. Marine recruiting center. Councilmember Gordon Wozniak was a voice of opposition to this use of the parking space saying that it “is showing favoritism to one side of the argument.”

Proposition 91- What's it all about?

Photo courtesy of Mess of Pottage.

Are you ready for Super Tuesday? Don't forget the state propositions, especially the one about transportation funding- Prop. 91. The official summary from the California Attorney General is:
Increases stability of state funding for highways, streets, and roads and may decrease stability of state funding for public transit. May reduce stability of certain local funds for public transit.
Our friends at the IGS Library provide an even handed look at the proposed legislation. The League of Women Voters also provide a summary of the proposition.

As the IGS Library guide notes:
Proponents of transportation funding protection have declared that the success of Prop. 1A in November, 2006, makes Prop. 91 irrelevant. They urge voters to reject the proposal. There is no official argument for Proposition 1A. However, the Southern California Transit Advocates have come out in favor of the measure. They claim that the legislature still took funds for non-transportation purposes after the passage of Prop. 1A and Prop. 1B, a transportation infrastructure expansion proposal also passed in 2006. The SCTA believes that prop. 91 will close a loophole that the legislature and governor have exploited.
What does it all mean? Well, apparently that Prop. 91 isn't needed any more that Prop 1A is working. The San Francisco Chronicle examines the sordid tale of Prop. 91, trying to flesh out what's going on.

Happy voting!